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The Virgin and Child in a chamber

The Virgin and Child in a chamber
oil on panel
18 3/4 x 14 7/8 in. (47.8 x 37.6 cm.)
Postrath Beisch, Stuttgart, by 1886.
Sigmund Roeher, Unterschoendorf (Ammersee), by 1912.
Theodor Schall, Baden-Baden, by 1918/19.
Rudolph Chillingworth, Nuremberg; Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 5 September 1922, lot 40, as Attributed to Hans Baldung.
Paravicini collection, Basel, by 1923.
Jules S. Bache (1861-1944), New York; Kende Galleries, New York, 23 April 1945, lot 19, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Cosmos Art Corporation (Frederick Stern), New York, until 1946, when acquired through William Randolph Hearst by,
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, by whom deaccessioned,
[Property Sold by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Benefit Future Acquisitions]; Sotheby's, New York, 27 January 2006, lot 264, as After Hans Baldung, where acquired by the present owner.
L. Scheibler, 'Die altdeutschen Gemälde auf der schwäbischen Kreisausstellung zu Augsburg 1886', in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, X, 1887, p. 28, as not Baldung.
R. Stiassny, Allgemeine Kunstchronik, IX, 1887, p. 721, as not Baldung.
G. Térey, 'Die Roehrerische Madonna mit Kind von Hans Baldung Grien', in Muenchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, VII, 1912, pp. 147-150, as Hans Baldung Grien.
H. Curjel, Hans Baldung Grien, Munich, 1923, pp. 75, 151, as Hans Baldung Grien.
O. Fischer, Hans Baldung Grien, Munich, 1939, p. 32, pl. 13, as Hans Baldung Grien.
H. Perseke, Hans Baldungs Schaffen in Freiburg, Freiburg, 1941, pp. 56 and 88, no.13, as Hans Baldung Grien.
A.J. Schardt, Quarterly: Los Angeles County Museum, V, no. 4, Winter 1946, pp. 3-4, illustrated, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Thirty-Five Paintings from the Collection of Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, 1950, pp. 1 and 8, no. 4, as Hans Baldung Grien.
C. Koch, 'Katalog der erhaltenen Gemälde, der Einblattholzschnitte und illustrierten Bücher von Hans Baldung-Grien,' Kunstchronik, VI, November 1953, p. 298, as Hans Baldung Grien.
P. Wescher, et al., A Catalogue of Flemish, German, Dutch and English Paintings, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, 1954, p. 34, no. 33, illustrated, as Hans Baldung Grien.
W. Hugelshofer, 'Wiederholungen bei Hans Baldung,' Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, XXXII, no. 1, 1969, pp. 29-43, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Members' Calendar 1970, December 1970, p. 12, as Hans Baldung Grien.
G. von der Osten, Hans Baldung Grien: Gemälde und Dokumente, Berlin, 1983, pp. 131-134, no. 38.
S. Schaefer and P. Fusco, European Painting and Sculpture in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1987, p. 14, illustrated, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Augsburg, Meisterwerke Schwäbischer Kunst aus der Kunsthistorischen Abtheilung der Schwäbischen Kreisausstellung, 1886, no. 72, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Zurich, Züricher Kunsthaus, Gemälde und Skulpturen, 1430-1530, September-November 1921, no. 13, as Hans Baldung Grien.
Indianapolis, John Herron Art Institute, Holbein and his Contemporaries, 22 October-24 December 1950, no. 2, as Hans Baldung Grien.

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Lot Essay

Full of movement and vibrant colors, Hans Baldung Grien’s Virgin and Child in a chamber is a poignant study of the intimate relationship between Mary and Jesus. An angel draws aside the curtain of a red tent to reveal Mary, kneeling on a stone floor. She embraces her son, pressing her cheek to his as she looks down sorrowfully toward a large, open book. A second angel turns its pages as the Holy Spirit descends from above in the form of a dove within a golden halo of light. A third angel peeks from beneath the back of the tent, drawing the viewer into the picture with his gaze. In the mid-twentieth century, Carl Koch linked the iconography of this composition to the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, which enjoyed immense popularity at the time Baldung painted this panel (C. Koch, 'Baldungs klassische Periode', in Kunstgeschichtliche Gesellschaft Berlin, Sitzungsberichte, January 1952-May 1953, pp. 22ff.). First printed in Lübeck in 1492, her writings were translated into German and published a decade later in Augsburg. Book I, chapter X, relates how soon after the Nativity, Mary gazed upon her son and became overwhelmed by the great heartache that came with her foreknowledge of his crucifixion: 'When I gazed upon and contemplated his beauty, joy seeped through my soul like dewdrops and I knew myself to be unworthy of such a son. But when I considered the places where (as I had learned from the predictions of the prophets) nails would be pierced through his hands and feet at the crucifixion, my eyes filled with tears and my heart was almost torn apart by sorrow.' For St. Bridget, the Virgin was the saddest of all mothers because the Holy Spirit enabled her to understand the writings of the prophets more perfectly than the prophets were able to themselves, and thereby knew what her son’s fate would be. Gert von der Osten notes that Baldung’s unusual choice to situate this dramatic moment beneath a red tent was likely inspired by early liturgical color prints of Christmas, Passion Week and the Pentecost (loc. cit.). The three balls at upper right are likely an allusion to the Rosary, while the stairs might be included to indicate that the scene takes place before the case in which, following the writings of St. Bridget, the Nativity occurred (ibid.).

Another version of this composition, in rather poor condition, is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. Paul Wescher (op. cit., no. 33) suggested that the Nuremberg painting originally belonged to the Markgräfler Hof in Basel, though as von der Osten notes, without further documentation, this theory remains unprovable (op. cit., p. 132). A related pen and ink drawing with white heightening on brown-tinted paper is in the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Though upon its discovery in the late nineteenth century, the present version was dismissed by Robert Stiassny (1887) and Ludwig Scheibler (1887) as not by Baldung. In 1912, Gábor Térey argued that it was a better-preserved, superior version of the Nuremberg picture. In the mid-twentieth century, Carl Koch (1953) similarly recognized it as an autograph replica, though the attribution was again doubted in the 1959 Baldung exhibition. Burton Frederickson (before 1976) considered it to be the earlier of the two. Hans Curjel (1923), Helmut Perseke (1941) and Walter Hugelshofer (1969) viewed them as contemporary to one another. In his catalogue raisonné (1983), von der Osten wrote that he did not doubt Baldung’s artistic responsibility for the present version, which he presumed was painted subsequently to the Nuremberg panel. Concluding that it was painted in Freiburg or Strasbourg in 1516 or shortly thereafter, he proposed that it should be catalogued as Hans Baldung and Workshop. Working from photographs, Bodo Brinkman, to whom we are grateful, considers von der Osten’s opinion very plausible and valid (private communication, 13 September 2022), noting that the softer, more painterly handling of the Nuremberg painting relative to the strong black contours and crisper execution of the present painting, suggest two different hands within the Baldung workshop, each guided by the master.

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